Sunday, August 1, 2010

Where Art Thou, Beauty?

“As a rule, a beautiful woman is a terrible disappointment,” Jung remarked. Why would he say this? Why would he make such a gross generalization? Truthfully, I do not know the context of this quote, but here is my take on it: Beautiful women and men are terrible disappointments because of a little psychological menace called projection.

Projection is a phenomenon in which we perceive our own personal traits, whether positive or negative, as outside of ourselves—like a film projected onto a screen. Many of us think, either consciously or unconsciously, that beauty is something other people have—not us. And not just beauty, but ideal, transcendent love—the kind we can really only get from our connection to God and ourselves. If we’re unsuccessful in experiencing this kind of love within, we look for it without—by getting involved with unsuspecting “beautiful” people. And maybe for a while the projection is successful—time stops, we’re euphoric, we think we have fallen in love. Until, that is, the beloved person behaves in ways we don’t like, proving to be something other than the glorious image of All Things Wonderful that we have projected onto her or him. Usually, we become extremely disappointed when this happens—hence Jung’s remark—and we want to leave our formerly fabulous lover, perhaps demonizing her or him along the way. But as a very wise woman once said to me, the real relationship begins when the projection falls. It takes courage and the willingness to look at ourselves to stay with someone after we’ve perceived his or her foibles.

Think about this: If we are sinking into disappointment about our beloved’s sudden lack of stellar qualities, maybe the person we are really displeased with is ourselves. Why? Because we failed to see our own beauty—and then went looking for it in another! Viewed in this light, we can see our disappointment as serving the sacred purpose of returning us to the source of that which we seek: our own hearts. Our relationships become powerful teachers of the most valuable of life lessons: the love and beauty we crave is within.